NEW YORK — Stanford’s Andrew Luck is returning to New York as a Heisman Trophy finalist, just not as the favorite.
That distinction belongs to Baylor’s Robert Griffin III.
The two star quarterbacks will join fellow finalists Trent Richardson, Tyrann Mathieu and Montee Ball at the Heisman presentation Saturday night in Manhattan.
Luck is the only repeat finalist this season, while Griffin is the first Baylor player to get an invite to the ceremony. The school that never has had a player finish better than fourth in the Heisman voting now seems to have the front-runner.
“I’m sure it will be a really close vote,” Griffin told reporters in Waco, Texas, after watching the announcement with teammates and coaches on Monday.
Richardson is the second Alabama running back to be a finalist in the past three years. Former teammate Mark Ingram won the Heisman in 2009.
Ball has scored 38 touchdowns for Wisconsin and needs one more to match Barry Sanders’ NCAA record.
Mathieu, the LSU defensive back nicknamed “Honey Badger,” has made numerous game-changing plays for the top-ranked Tigers.
The field was deep this season, and several deserving players didn’t make the cut. Boise State quarterback Kellen Moore, a finalist last season; Southern California quarterback Matt Barkley; and record-breaking passer Case Keenum of Houston did not receive enough votes to be among the final five.
Ballots from the 926 voters, mostly media members and former winners, were due Monday evening.
Luck was the Heisman runner-up to Auburn’s Cam Newton last year and passed up a chance to be the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft to return to Stanford for his junior season. From the moment he made the decision to stay in school in January, he became the odds-on favorite to win the big bronze statue.
Luck is looking to become Stanford’s second Heisman winner, joining quarterback Jim Plunkett, who won in 1970.
“It would mean a lot,” Luck said in an interview on ESPN. “It would mean a great deal for the university. Mean a lot to me and a great deal to the football program as well.”
He had another stellar season, passing for 3,170 yards with 35 touchdowns while leading the Cardinal to an 11-1 record and a second straight BCS bid. But the competition has been fierce and numerous contenders emerged.
The prognosticators now have Griffin as the most likely winner.
Heismanpundit.com, which successfully has predicted the past four winners with a straw poll of 13 voters, had Griffin as its top vote-getter on Monday. Luck was second and Richardson third.